Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
The 1st Resurrection In Revelation 20

Revelation 20:4-6

John L. Kachelman, Jr.


I. The lesson text "the most debated chapter" in the entire Bible. The symbols and figures of the text have encouraged many to develop sensational hysteria regarding their teachings as they distort and twist the Holy Script- ures. Consequently the honest reader is anxious about what the text means. Look at the picture and notice the marvels it presents to our mind's eye (paraphrase the text). 

II. The greatest perversion of this text is found in the Premillennial doctrine. The text is taken and twisted to teach the following errors:

1. Christ did not establish His Kingdom. The church was an accident and is to remain until the Kingdom can be established in Jerusalem.

2. After a period of terror (the Great Tribulation) Christ will come to earth to establish His Kingdom in Jerusalem. When He comes back the dead saints will be raised but the ungodly will remain in their graves. This is the 1st resurrection of 20:5.

3. Following the first resurrection Jesus will establish His Kingdom and those who had a part in the first resurrection will reign with Christ from earthly Jerusalem. During their reign there will be Universal Peace and brotherhood; ALL Jews will be saved and go out as missionaries to convert the world; the Temple will be rebuilt and sacrifices resumed.

4. This is to last for 1,000 years. 

5. The popularity of this error is prominent. It is so common that many accept it as fact! (1 Peter 3:15).

6. Let's look at this marvelous passage and see what it has to say to the followers of God today.


I. The error of this doctrine is supported by the following statements:

A. The advocates twist Scripture to "support" these points --

1. It is claimed that there will be "thrones" in Jerusalem and saints will sit on them (20:4).

2. The co-regents are faithful servants of God who have been physically resurrected (20:4).

3. They reign with Christ 1,000 years (20:4) in the "Millenial Kingdom."

4. The resurrected saints will exercise priestly services (20:6).

5. The ungodly will not be a part of this "1st resurrection" but will be resurrected AFTER the 1,000 years (20:5).

B. To support this error the following symbols must be taken literally:

1. Thrones

2. Resurrections are physical

3. Christ literally reigning on earth

4. Priestly service in a literal Temple with literal sacrifices

5. A literal period of 1,000 earth years 

II. Even a casual reading of other texts reveals the error that is suggested above. A literal interpretation is not satisfactory because:

A. It forces Christ to contradict Himself.

1. John 18:36 - this error makes the "kingdom" one "of this world."

2. Hebrews 6:20-7:25 - this error forces Him to practice contradictory to God's Scriptures.

3. Jeremiah 22:30 - this error makes God a liar (Matthew 1:11).

B. It compels us to accept absurd conclusions.

1. How can a literal "soul" sit on literal "thrones" (v. 4)? 

2. How will modern saints qualify under the requirements of 20:4 -- the advocates state the "mark of the beast" will be at a specific time. If not in our day there is no hope for us! Thus God is to blame for our damnation!

3. Those who wish to make one symbol literal and another figurative must "pick and choose" what they want -- such a study habit is foolish.

C. A literal rendering "reads into" the text things that are contrary to God's will and these things are not even hinted at in the text!

1. Christ reigning upon the earth.

2. The reigning taking place in Jerusalem.

3. The Temple and sacrifices restored.

4. That "Universal Peace" and brotherhood exist.

5. That ALL Jews are saved.

D. A literal interpretation requires Christ's reign to begin when the saints' reign begins. Such opposes the Bible (Acts 2:33-36).

E. A literal interpretation contradicts the Bible's teaching of only one resurrection of the physical body (John 5:28, 29). Note - when ALL that are in the graves). Also John 6:40 -- believers will be raised on the "last day" not 1,000 before the last day!

F. A literal interpretation regards the death of Jesus as useless for animal sacrifices must be restored and observed! (Hebrews 9:11,12; 10:4).

III. There is an approach that avoids the pitfalls of literalism. If the figures are understood as symbols of concepts, acts, and ideas the passage becomes clear.

A. We must follow this principle -- Interpretation of symbolic figures must remain consistent with other texts that are clearer. Any new doctrine based upon a symbolic passage should be avoided at all costs.

B. Approaching this scene as symbolic we discover the following.

1. The picture is of the saint's triumph over Satan's forces.

a. 20:1-4 Satan is bound, restricted, limited.

b. "Thrones" symbolize honor, privilege, power.

c. "Life" refers to one's union with Christ and God. Without God they remain "dead" (Ep 2:1). As long as one is "dead" there is no "throne" (honor, privilege). 

d. "Priests" refers to saints' position of serving Almighty God (Rv 1:6).

e. "Reign" refers to our influence and actions in the world.

f. "1,000 years" is figurative (10x10x10) representing an indefinite period of completion.

2. We must be able to verify our conclusions with other texts to see if they are consistent.

a. Saints do sit on "thrones" now (Rv 1:9; 5:10; Ephesians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 4:8). This signifies spiritual status and honor. By virtue of sitting on the thrones we "reign" but not with worldly power (Romans 5:21).

b. Saints who sit and reign do so because they are "priests" serving God (20:6b). This priestly service is going on NOW (1 Peter 2:5,9). If Christians are priests NOW, before physical death, they are also reigning with Christ NOW!

c. Thus, the chapter symbolized the faithful of God who endure. As such they are exempted from "the second death" (Hell; 20:6,15).

d. There is one thing which qualifies us to enjoy these blessings - having part in the 1st Resurrection (20:6a)!

1) "Blessed" because they enjoy the benefits.

2) "Holy" because they enter into a sanctified lifestyle; no longer bound by sin they anticipate Heaven, not Hell!

e. What is the act which enables man to enjoy this? What action can be termed "a resurrection"; where we rise from death to life and gain the blessing stated here?

IV. The symbolism of the "first resurrection" refers to the obedience of believers to baptism through which they are saved. 

A. Note how the "rebirth" of our soul's spiritual status is termed "a resurrec- tion" (Ephesians 2:1). It is so called because sin kills our souls (Isaiah 59:2; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:21).

B. In obeying Christ spiritual life is changed from death into life (John 5:24,25; 11:25).

C. Thus the "1st Resurrection" of Rv 20:5 is a resurrection of our souls from spiritual death and is accomplished when we hear and obey the gospel (Ephesians 2:5-8). This conclusion appears from the fact that those participating in the "1st Resurrection" are "priests" and "reign with Christ" (Rv 20:6b). These terms can only describe an obedient believer. One becomes a priest by being called into light (1 Peter 2:9). This calling takes place when the gospel is preached (1 Peter 1:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). By the power of the gospel we are made priests and are saved (Romans 1:16). In salvation, becoming priests, we are delivered from darkness to light (1 Peter 2:9b; Colossians 1:13). This deliverance or "translation" takes place at baptism, which is the "1st Resurrection" (Ephesians 4:17-24; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

D. The act of baptism is required if we are to participate in the "1st Resurrection" (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:2-6,11-13). Without baptism it is impossible to share in the "1st Resurrection." Thus the message is clear. Although symbols are used we can understand the meaning. The triumph, reign, honor, and privilege awaits only those who are baptized! Thus the imperative of Acts 22:16. Knowing these facts Acts 10:47a! 


I. The Book of Revelation is only "nonsense" to those who allow themselves to be blinded by ignorance and error. Let all follow God's complete will -- it is plain and simple.

II. Realize the urgency of Rv 20:6. It speaks directly to you today.

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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